Of all the rookie players in the NFL last season, Minnesota Viking’s kicker Blair Walsh had the biggest impact to his teams success.
The Vikings drafted Walsh with the 177th pick in the 2012 draft out of Georgia. Walsh was known for being a phenomenal kicker since high school where he hit two 59-yard field goals as a senior. He was rated in the top 5 kickers in the nation by ESPN.com before taking his talents to the Bulldogs.
At Georgia, Walsh continued to kick with success. He kicked 76 out of 103 field goals while going 184 for 185 on extra points in his college career. As a Bulldog, he kicked four field goals in a single game three times.
Before the draft, scouts questioned his ability to be consistent after a slump of a senior season. Scouts weren’t sure he would be the best guy to fill the void veteran Ryan Longwell left when the team released him.
His rookie season proved every doubter wrong. He started off the season only missing one field goal in the first eleven weeks of the season. At this point in the season he was 6 for 6 from 50+ yards and 21 for 21 on extra points. In a December where he was named NFC special teams player of the month, Walsh passed Randy Moss for the Vikings franchise record in points scored by a rookie with 119 points. He totaled 141 points in 2012.
At the end of the season, Walsh had the NFL record for most field goals of 5o yards or more in a single season with 10. He made all 10 consecutively and went 100 percent from beyond the fifty. He tied the record for most field goals of 37 yards or more in a game with 5. If that doesn’t convince you, Walsh holds the NFL record for 35 field goals in a rookie season all while keeping the highest rookie field goal percentage of 92.1 percent. A record he shares with only Ali-Haji-Sheikh.
Walsh had three consecutive games with 5o+ yard field goals. Not only is Walsh’s leg strong, it is clutch too. He kicked a game tying field goal in his first regular season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and then won the game in overtime with a 38 yard kick. He also kicked a 29 yard field goal to beat the Green Bay Packers in a week 17 thriller which backed the team into the postseason.
He was awarded 2012 AP All-Pro First Team honors as the only rookie. He went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and made both kicks including a 48 yarder and eight extra points in the exhibition game.
In my opinion, the kicker is the most undervalued position in football. The pressure of winning a game or perhaps the Super Bowl can be put on a guy who practices in shorts. Vikings fans should be happy the team found value in Walsh. They found a guy who can win football games for the team from any distance.
My friends, Blair Walsh is for real.